Friday, August 11, 2017

Referencing the Doctor

The new Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition is out in shops, this one devoted to Referencing the Doctor. It's full of wonders, including Alistair McGown's piece on the greatest book about Doctor Who ever, The Doctor Who Monster Book (1975).

I've written a few bits and bobs for the mag, too:

STINFO MANIACS
In the days before Doctor Who Magazine, the devotees of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society went to extraordinary lengths to chart the history of their favourite programme. (Interviews with DWAS's Jan Vincent-Rudzki and Jeremy Bentham.)

MAIL ORDER MAN
For two decades, John Fitton provided an essential service to Doctor Who fans - supplying books and other merchandise direct to their doors.

THE BOOKKEEPER
Doctor Who's account brand manager Edward Russell is the ultimate authority on what goes into a reference book.

Plus Robert Fairclough talks to m'colleagues Steve O'Brien and Ben Morris about our 2016 book, Whographica. Mark Wright talks to BBC Books's publishing director Albert DePetrillo about titles including my The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who and the forthcoming Paper Dolls and The Book of Whoniversal Records. There's even mention of my book on The Evil of the Daleks. And I provided some details about The Writer's Guide produced by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain - edited by Malcolm Hulke and commissioned by David Whitaker.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Doctor Who: the Book of Whoniversal Records

The new issue of Doctor Who Magazine announced that I have a new book out on 28 September. The Book of Whoniversal Records is "a celebration of the greatest achievements from the brilliant, impossible world of Doctor Who."

There's also a lengthy preview of Doctor Who: Paper Dolls, a book by Ben Morris that I've written captions for, with cosplay tips by Christel Dee. That is out on 24 August - but you can get it early at Forbidden Planet in London on Saturday 19 August, when Christel and I will be signing copies.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Evil of the Daleks - a sample from my book


I was very sorry to hear the news last week that Deborah has died. I wrote a brief tribute for the Big Finish website:
"The Doctor Who production team originally wanted Pauline Collins - Samantha Briggs in The Faceless Ones - to stay on as the new companion. When she declined, they quickly promoted a character in the next story, The Evil of the Daleks, so that Victorian orphan Victoria joined the TARDIS. Unlike companions before or since, she wasn't gutsy and wise-cracking and often spent her adventures in abject terror. But perhaps because of that, and definitely because of the way Deborah Watling played her, Victoria enjoyed scenes and stories that would never have suited anyone else. There's the magical moment in The Tomb of the Cybermen where the Doctor finds a quiet moment to comfort her, and speaks of his long-lost family. There are the stink bombs she brews up to battle the Ice Warriors and her screams - so often a cliche of a "weak" Doctor Who girl - are what defeat the evil seaweed in Fury from the Deep. (To help explain how, writer Victor Pemberton devised the sonic screwdriver, so we owe that to Victoria too.)

I got to meet Debbie Watling a handful of times, and we talked about the delights - and frustrations - of playing Victoria. I'll especially remember her telling me about Dimensions in Time, after I'd told her how much I enjoyed it. She explained that under her shawl in that she's hiding her arm being in plaster cast - because she'd fallen off a skateboard."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bibbly-Bob the Seal

Today, the Lord of Chaos and I, and our friend Erin, attended the South London Comic and Zine Fair and had a lovely time picking out daft comics and also some nice badges. We also handed out the comic we made this morning - the story and art by his Lordship, the lettering and going-over-his-pencils-in-pen by me.

Here, for your delight, is Bibbly-Bob the Seal and the Shark Adventure, (c) Lord of Chaos and his true servant.





Friday, June 30, 2017

Star Wars Identities

You can read my review of the Star Wars Identities exhibition for the Lancet Psychiatry. And here are some pictures I took as I nosed my way round with Lady Vader.

The first panel...

... accompanied by this snap.

Me, Lady Vader and BB-8.

Han in Carbonite

Bad guy spaceships

More spaceships

Yet more spaceships

Slave I, including dinky Boba Fett

I should like a hat like that

Millennium Falcon, round radar dish

It is your destiny.

The skull of Darth Vader

No, I am your father.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Doctor Who and the Paper Dolls

Praise the company! I've just been sent my first copy of Doctor Who - Paper Dolls, the book I've co-written with Christel Dee and magnificently illustrated by Ben Morris. It's out in shops soon.






Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

My friend Red gave me The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies almost a year ago, but work got it in the way so I've only just read the first instalment - Fifth Business, originally published in 1970.

The book is a memoir by an old teacher, Dunstan Ramsay, sent to the headmaster of his school. It's a rather rambling life history, beginning with a snowball fight, then taking in Dunstan's relatively impoverished childhood in a Canadian village, his horrifically conveyed service in the First World War, and his later teaching and academic career, writing books about saints.

Davies is clearly influenced by Jung - the main characters in the book seem to represent Jungian archetypes. There's plenty on memory - one mean act haunts one man for decades and overshadows the life of another, yet is entirely forgotten by the perpertator. As Dunstan details his own experience, we follow the threads of these other, connected lives until very late - on page 244 of 257 - we realise this is less memoir than confession and the threads suddenly tie up.

The effect is that as you're reading it this is an enjoyable amble that wears its intelligence lightly, but it becomes in retrospect something much more affecting. It's not just the plot; there are so many asides and observations that I suspect I'll long be picking over. For example, there's Dunstan's friendship with the maverick Jesuit, Padre Blazon, who had over 100 and in a Viennese hospital, still eagerly courts radical views:
"The Devil knows corners of us all of which Christ himself is ignorant. Indeed, I am sure Christ learned a great deal that was salutary about Himself when He met the Devil in the wilderness. Of course, that was a meeting of brothers; people forget too readily that Satan is Christ's elder brother and has certain advantages in argument that pertain to a senior."
Robertson Davies, Fifth Business (1970) in The Deptford Trilogy, p. 240.

Friday, June 16, 2017

1927 review of William Hartnell

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, William Hartnell – later, the first Doctor Who – trained as an actor at the Italia Conti Stage School. In 1924, aged 16, he joined the repertory company of actor-manager Frank Benson.

The ODNB says Hartnell “often” appeared in eight plays in a single week. I've found little supporting evidence for this in the contemporary press – but then the press wouldn't necessarily name every member of a cast, especially if they played only a small role.

Benson's company was well known for its productions of Shakespeare and Wikipedia lists appearances by Hartnell in The Merchant of Venice, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Hamlet, The Tempest and Macbeth all in 1926. The same year he also appeared in She Stoops to Conquer and School for Scandal, and the following year in Good Morning, Bill. I've seen his name in cast lists but no reviews that comment on his performance - until now.

The following review was published on page 8 of The Devon and Exeter Gazette on Tuesday, 15 November 1927.
A THRILLER
“The Man Responsible” at Exeter Theatre.
SENSATIONAL PLAY
The Theatre Royal, Exeter, during the past season or so has staged a number of “thrillers”, but they have been, with the possible exception of “Dracula”, thrillers of a wholesome character. We recall such dramatic sensations as “The Ghost Train”, “The Bat”, “No. 17” and “The Cat and the Canary.” This week a thriller of a totally different character is being presented in “The Man Responsible.” The play, it is true, is full of thrills, but thrills of a nature which hardly appeal to the ordinary theatre-goer we should imagine. It opens upon an unpleasant note, and as the play develops situations arise which are unpleasant in the extreme. The drugging and hypnotising of a promising young doctor by a specialist driven mad by revenge for the death of a daughter by an illegal operation, and the forcing of the young medico to perform a critical operation on his mother, who dies while under the influence of the anaesthetic, form sensational thrills, but whether they are of a wholesome description is another matter. The reference to the “Justice of the Almighty being too slow” in the “trial scene” is not pleasant, to put it mildly, even though it be the ravings of a madman. To our mind “The Man Responsible” strikes the note of “melodrama gone mad.” Probably we shall be hauled over the coals for our opinion, but the duty of a critic seems to us to be to express his opinion, and this is the opinion of our critic. By the way, what has Exeter done to be mentioned as near the scene of the play?
    The company who present the play have a difficult task, and the most difficult of all is that which falls to the lot of Mr. William Hartnell, to whom is entrusted the all-important role of Dr. Ronald Warden, the tortured young medico. It was a realistic playing of the part for which Mr. Hartnell was responsible. First there was the brilliant young medical man, eager and enthusiastic, standing at the threshold of what promises to be a useful and splendid career. Then there comes the transformation into the drugged, nervous wreck, the tool of the medical maniac. A wonderful realistic presentation Mr. Hartnell gave, and his audience accorded him the whole-hearted applause he deserved. Miss Mabel Heath gave a sympathetic rendering of Annie Ritter – another part calling for careful handling. Mr. A Fellows Bassett gave a “Svengalistic” touch to the role of the hypnotising maniac, Dr. Morris Morton, while Mr. Harold Greaves was convincing as Dr. Felex Gordon. Miss Hazel Morne did well as Marion, and the minor roles of Vernie (Miss Dulcie French), Mrs. Warden (Miss Eugenie Vernie), and Jensen (Miss Sylvia Rimmer) were well presented. There will be the usual Friday matinee.
The following year, Hartnell had a role in Miss Elizabeth's Prisoner, alongside the actress Heather McIntyre. They married in 1929. In 1932, Hartnell made his first appearance on film in Say It With Music.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Adventures in Space

Out now in shops - and digitally from PocketMags - is The Essential Doctor Who - Adventures in Space.


Among the delights, there are four things by me:

  • Mission to Moscow
    David Whitaker's special assignment on behalf of Solzhenitsyn, at the same time he (Whitaker!) was meant to be writing The Ambassadors of Death (1970).
  • Star Man
    Sid Sutton talks me through the Doctor Who titles he designed, used between 1980 and 1986. Plus, I speak to the person who used Sid's titles as the basis of the special Doctor Who 30th anniversary teaser.
  • The Impossible Suit
    Costume designer Louise Page and big cheese Russell T Davies discuss making space travel seem convincing in The Impossible Planet (2006) and after.
  • Fighting the Suits
    Costume designer Hayley Nebauer unpicks the spacesuits seen in this year's episodes, focusing on Oxygen.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Little Britain


On Saturday, I was a guest at the Fairford Festival, the literature bit organised by my friend (and sometime mentor) Paul Cornell.

The day began with a brilliant talk by Sarah McIntyre who got us drawing sea monkeys and singing the sea monkey song. Then Sarah took part in the parade through town, a fire engine leading assorted Daleks, drummers and boy scouts through the glorious sunshine.

Emma Newman, whose Planetfall I found enthralling, then discussed ways to knuckle down to writing, overcoming fears and distractions and the need to tell people what you're working on rather than doing the work. I really like the idea that the more you write and send out and get rejected or critiqued, the more you build up armour.

Then Marek Kukula and I did our spiel on the Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who - and Sarah McIntyre sketched us looking especially clever.

Portrait by Sarah McIntyre
After that we went hunting for food and enjoyed a bit of sun, and got chatting to various people, including the team at Pea Green Boat Books and also Ian Millsted, who has written a Black Archive book on the 1982 Doctor Who story Black Orchid. But that ambling about and nattering meant I sadly missed Shagufta K before returning to catch the end of  Martyn Waites' talk. By then I was a bundle of nerves in preparation for interviewing Doctor Who head writer (and my boss), Steven Moffat, to a packed and eager audience.


There was just time to wave goodbye before Marek and I had to race for our train back to London, only to find it was running late anyway.

Which meant we were on the Tube heading for London Bridge when the announcement came that the train would not be stopping there. With no other information, not sure what was going on, or how much of London was affected, I then had a convoluted and very long journey home via several modes of transport. There were a lot of frightened people on the trains and buses, and also the resignation of south Londoners used to transport being all acock. But the most noticeable thing was the constant, "Hi, are you stuck, can I help?"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Audience of Evil

When episode 1 of The Evil of the Daleks was first broadcast at 6 pm on BBC One on Saturday, 20 May 1967, it was watched by 8.1 million people.

Except that the viewing figures usually given for Doctor Who in the 1960s are the BBC's own internal estimates from the time. These figures often differ significantly from estimates by the agency Total Audience Measurement (TAM), which were until 1968 used by ITV networks and advertisers, and based on numbers of households watching not individual viewers.
EpisodeTx dateAudience (BBC)Audience (TAM)
120 May 19678.1 million4.3 million
227 May 19677.5 million
33 June 19676.1 million
410 June 19675.3 millionunder 4.45 million
517 June 19675.1 million
624 June 19676.8 million3.4 million
71 July 19676.1 millions2.9 million

The TAM figures here are taken from The Stage and Television Today issues #4498 (29 June 1967), #4501 (20 July 1967), and #4506 (24 August  1967), where Doctor Who episodes were among the top five most-viewed children's programmes of the preceding month. For episode 4, TAM figures published in issue #4497 (22 June 1967) give the top 20 most-viewed programmes for the week ending 11 June. Doctor Who is not listed but the figure for the 20th most-viewed programme is 4,450,000.

Since 1981, a single, independent measurement of viewing figures has been produced by the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), but methods of estimating numbers of viewers have evolved over the years so we should be wary of the conclusions we draw from comparing data from different periods. However, it may help contextualise the figures cited above to know that BARB estimates that in January 1967 there were 18 million homes in the UK, 15.9 million of them with TVs; by January 1968 that figure had risen to 18.2 million homes, 16.4 million with TVs. See www.barb.co.uk/resources/tv-ownership/

(This was a footnote cut from my book on The Evil of the Daleks.)

Monday, May 08, 2017

K-9 & Company

I had a lovely weekend at the Doctor Who Appreciation Society's Capitol event, where we launched my book on The Evil of the Daleks.


The Lord of Chaos was delighted to poke his nose inside the TARDIS, to meet K-9 (he approves of the new look for the forthcoming film as it is cuter than the original) and to come home with no end of new toys.

I saw lots of old friends, had a nice chat with Bob Baker who'd I'd not met before, and really liked the exhibition of photos, letters and other curios from the collection of the late Alec Wheal, senior cameraman on 1980s Doctor Who, .


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You can buy Evil now

You can now buy my 244-page book on the 1967 Doctor Who story The Evil of the Daleks.

It's £3.99 for an epub or mobi electronic version, £4.99 for a paperback - which is a special sale price just now - and £7.99 for both a paper and electronic version. This is such tantalisingly good value it is surely impossible to resist, so do buy it. You will obey!

There's also a free extract on the publisher's website: The Evil of the Daleks - Here and Now.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Toys & Games

The new issue of Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition is in shops now, devoted to toys and games over the past six decades.

Among its wonders, I've interviewed Alex Loosely-Saul from The Who Shop (where I spent a lovely afternoon drinking lots and lots of tea), and former head of licensing Richard Hollis, designer Dave Turbitt and current creative development executive Ross McGlinchey about the role of BBC Worldwide in matching toys to the series since 2005.

Speaking of interviewing people involved with Doctor Who, I've added a 2015 interview with SFX producer Kate Walshe from Millennium FX to my Koquillion archive site - and another interview will be added next week, too.

And I've posted a special thread on Twitter. since today marks 50 years exactly since filming began on The Evil of the Daleks.

(I might have mentioned I've written a book about that story...)


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Koquillion

This striking-looking fellow is Koquillion, star of the 1964 Doctor Who story The Rescue.

I have pilferred his name for my new blog collecting together interviews I've conducted over the years with the cast and crew of Doctor Who. Thirteen interviews went live this morning, and I'll add another one each week.

http://koquillion.blogspot.co.uk/


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Outliers

Big Finish have announced a new Doctor Who audio adventure written by me, due out later this year. It features the Second Doctor.
In The Outliers (October) by Simon Guerrier, the travellers arrive on a asteroid in the far future, where miners are mysteriously vanishing. It’s up to the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie to investigate - and the Examiner’s badge from the planet Vulcan is their passport… Debbie Chazen (Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned) plays Dr Goro, while Alistair Petrie (Rogue One) is Richard Tipple.
Pre-order The Outliers from Big Finish.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Doctor Who paper dolls

New book out in August:


Take a romp through time and space with this fantastic collection of Doctor Who paper dolls.

Hours of crafty fun to be had, with 26 dolls – including all 12 Doctors and a range of companions and characters, from Rose and Donna to Missy and new companion Bill – and over 50 different outfits to change them into.

Learn the secrets behind the costumes, with insights from the actors and producers, and find out how to take your own dress-up to the next level with cosplay tips from Doctor Who: The Fan Show’s Christel Dee.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Simon Guerrier is co-author of Whographica and The Scientific Secrets of Doctor Who, and has written countless Doctor Who books, comics, audio plays and documentaries.

Ben Morris has illustrated for Radio Times, Sunday Times and The Scotsman, and is a regular contributor to Doctor Who Magazine. He has created dozens of character icons and puzzles for Doctor Who Adventures.

Christel Dee is the presenter of Doctor Who: The Fan Show. A cosplayer, convention enthusiast and long-time Whovian, her popular YouTube channel features interviews with fans and cosplayers.
Doctor Who: Paper Dolls is published August 24, 2017 — pre-order here.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Essential Doctor Who Robots

Out today from the makers of the official Doctor Who Magazine is The Essential Doctor Who: Robots.

Among its many delights there is me, cheerfully chatting to Michael Kilgarriff about playing the robot - the definite article - in Robot (1974-5), to Tom MacRae about the legal issues that affected the design of the Handbots in The Girl Who Waited (2011), and to Kate Walshe about the many maniacal machine people manufactured by Millennium FX in recent years. She also provides a glut of never-before-seen photographs.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Pick of the Week

Our documentary, John Ruskin's Eurythmic Girls (still available on iPlayer) was one of the 14 programmes included in Pick of the Week on Radio 4 last night, introduced by Ernie Rea. We're covered 32.58 into the programme.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Colin and the Carrionites

July sees the release of Doctor Who: Classic Doctors, New Monsters vol. 2, and I've written the Sixth Doctor's encounter with the witchy Carrionites (last seen battling the David Tennant and Shakespeare on TV).

As I said for the news story at the Big Finish website,
"Matt Fitton asked me to write for Colin and the Carrionites. The Carrionites get their power from words, and the Sixth Doctor is the most logophile of Doctors, so I knew there was something potent there. David Richardson suggested the 1980s setting, invoking something of the Enfield poltergeist of the late 1970s, and I drew a bit on Hammer's To The Devil a Daughter, or at least my memories of being terrified of that in my teens. And I was keen to ensure that this was definitely the Carrionites, not just any witchy aliens, so I looked for something to link it firmly to The Shakespeare Code..."


Friday, February 17, 2017

John Ruskin's Eurythmic Girls

John Ruskin's Eurythmic Girls is a new documentary I've produced with my brother Tom to be broadcast on Radio 3 on Sunday 26 February, and then available on iPlayer.

Presenter Samira Ahmed has written her own piece about the documentary, but here's the blurb:

John Ruskin's Eurythmic Girls

Eurythmic dance at
Queenswood School, 1920s
Perhaps you did music and movement at school. There was a time girls across the country learnt to dance as if they were flowers. At the start of the 20th century, Jacques-Dalcroze developed Eurythmics to teach the rhythm and structure of music through physical activity. But the idea had earlier roots, including an unlikely champion of women's liberation.

John Ruskin - now derided by feminist critics as a woman-fearing medievalist - was at the centre of a 19th-century education movement that challenged the conventional female role in society. Amid concerns about the health of the British empire he looked back to the muscular figures in medieval painting and the sculpture of the ancient Greeks, in their loose-fitting clothes. Perhaps the Victorians needed to shed their corsets and free their minds for learning. In Of Queens' Gardens he set out a radical, influential model for girls' education.

Samira Ahmed argues that Ruskin was an accidental feminist. To understand where his ideas came from, how they were enacted and what survives in the way girls are taught today, she ventures into one of the schools set up on Ruskinian principles, tries on the corsetry that restricted Victorian women's lives, and gets the insight of Victorian scholars.

Contributors: Matthew Sweet (author of Inventing the Victorians); Dr Debbie Challis (Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL); Louise Scholz-Conway (Angels Costumes); Dr Fern Riddell (author of A Victorian Guide to Sex); Dr Amara Thornton (Institute of Archaeology, UCL) and Isobel Beynon, Dr Wendy Bird, Annette Haynes, Dr Jean Horton, Diane Maclean, Aoife Morgan Jones and Natasha Rajan at Queenswood School. Readings by Toby Hadoke.

Presenter Samira Ahmed
Producers Simon and Thomas Guerrier
A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 3.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

From Croydon to Gallifrey

Yesterday, I was the guest of Janet and Steve on Croydon Radio's From Croydon to Gallifrey, talking Doctor Who, the casting of the next Doctor, the impending 50th anniversary of The Evil of the Daleks (on which I have written a book), my recent typing for Big Finish and much else besides.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Graceless title sequence

The t'rific Tom Saunders has made this tremendous opening title sequence for my science-fiction series, Graceless.


As the video says, it stars Ciara Janson and Laura Doddington with Annie Firbank and Sian Phillips, is written by me, directed by Lisa Bowerman and you can buy Graceless IV now.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Radio Free Skaro and Whographica

Win a free copy of Doctor Who infographics book Whographica via the terrifying beings who run podcast Radio Free Skaro in conjunction with my masters at BBC Books.

As an added bonus, you can hear me, my co-author Steve O'Brien and illustrator Ben Morris explain all the many secrets involved in writing the thing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Cover of Evil

Here is the cover to my forthcoming book on 1967 Doctor Who story The Evil of the Daleks - out in May from the Black Archive series:


The artwork is by Blair Bidmead and Cody Shell. The blurb for my book is as follows...

‘Without knowing, you have shown the Daleks what their own strength is!’

 In the midst of swinging London, the Daleks run an antique shop. The Victorian items on sale are all completely genuine – but they’re also brand new. Soon the Doctor is following a trail back to 1866 and then to the Dalek home planet of Skaro. It’s not just the authenticity of a few antiques that’s at stake but what it is that makes us human – and how that can be used. 

The Evil of the Daleks (1967) is an epic, strange and eerie conclusion to Doctor Who’s fourth series, originally commissioned to kill off the Daleks for good. For all it’s set in history and on an alien world, the production team were consciously grappling with very contemporary issues – and improvising round practical circumstances out of their control.

This Black Archive title explores how The Evil of the Daleks developed from commission to broadcast 50 years ago – and beyond. Painstaking research and new interviews with many of those involved in the production shed fresh light on the story, its characters and its mix of science and history. 

Simon Guerrier is a writer and producer, and author of a number of Doctor Who books, comics and audio plays.

For more stuff about The Evil of the Daleks, click the label below.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Graceless offers and trailer

Here, hear the amazing trailer for Graceless IV which is out later this month. The writing is by me but the extraordinary song is the work of Duncan Wisbey.



In the meantime, this weekend those splendid fellows at Big Finish are offering special offers on previous Graceless adventures.